Importance of life extension

From “Myth # 10” on this page:

Clearly, there are many problems and injustices in our world. Many nations face war, hunger, poverty, and epidemics. Yet, as mentioned in regard to the justice issue on myth #5, this does not mean industrialized nations must abandon expensive medicines. Besides, more often than not the problems of third world countries are political, not technological. For example, hunger is usually caused not by a lack of food per se but rather by the inability to deliver food due to war, anarchy, tyranny, etc.

Aging is the major problem we face in modern society. It is or will be the major cause of suffering and pain for me and the ones I love. This holds true for most nations nowadays and that is why fighting aging must be a top priority.

Murphy and Topel1 write:

Cumulative gains in life expectancy after 1900 were worth over $1.2 million to the representative American in 2000, whereas post-1970 gains added about $3.2 trillion per year to national wealth, equal to about half of GDP.

From their conclusion (p 902):

Prospectively, even modest progress against diseases such as cancer and heart disease would have enormous social values. A 1 percent reduction in mortality from cancer or heart disease would be worth nearly $500 billion to current and future Americans. These estimates ignore the value of health advances to individuals in other countries, so they understate aggregate social values of possible innovations. They also ignore corresponding improvements in the quality of life—which evidence suggests may be even more valuable than gains in longevity—and for these reasons as well they are likely to be conservative. We show that these values will increase in the future because of economic growth and, more interestingly, because health itself continues to improve.

Large as they are, these values may be offset by the costs of developing and implementing health improvements. Current public and private spending on health-related research is a tiny fraction of potential benefits, yet such investments may not be worthwhile if the costs of implementing new technologies are large. Social transfer programs and other third-party methods of financing health care can distort both utilization decisions and research, with the result that some health improvements are socially inefficient.

de Magalhaes2 also cites Schneider3 and says “Given the foreseeable problems in healthcare due to the increasing percentage of people over 65 in industrialized nations (Schneider, 1999), curing aging would be highly beneficial from an economic perspective.” Moreover Schneider adds4:

If our nation [i.e. the US] is serious about averting the future exponential growth of health care, housing, and transportation costs for the elderly, we must start now by providing adequate funding for the prevention and effective treatment of the chronic diseases that afflict the older population. A quantum increase in research on chronic diseases is necessary before we can make a dent in the projected growth of health care costs related to an aging population. In 1998, approximately $1 billion was spent by the federal government on aging research (15). By comparison, a third of the more than $1.146 trillion spent on U.S. health care (16) was spent on health care services for older Americans. No corporation that spent a mere 0.30% of its revenues on research would last long in a competitive marketplace.

See also de Magalhaes’s page on anti-aging myths, which cites Murphy and Topel.

  1. Kevin M. Murphy and Robert H. Topel. The Value of Health and Longevity. Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 114, No. 5 (October 2006), pp. 871-904. Accessed through JSTOR.

  2. de Magalhaes, J. P. 1997–2013.

  3. Edward L. Schneider. “Aging in the Third Millennium”. Science, New Series, Vol. 283, No. 5403 (Feb. 5, 1999), pp. 796-797.

  4. Edward L. Schneider. “Aging in the Third Millennium”. Science, New Series, Vol. 283, No. 5403 (Feb. 5, 1999), pp. 796-797.